In a jab at Moscow, Georgia on May 20 became the first country to recognize as genocide Tsarist Russia’s massive slaughter of ethnic Circassians in the mid-19th century. The decision constitutes part of Tbilisi’s ongoing argument that the Caucasus is a region where Russia comes as an outsider, not as a native with the right to rule. On a more tactical level, the vote is widely perceived as an attempt to even the score with Moscow for its recognition of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
Applauding Diaspora Circassians who attended the May 20 parliamentary hearings rose to their feet in respect when the Georgian parliament unanimously passed the genocide resolution. The vote came on the eve of Circassian Memory Day, which commemorates the 1864 slaughter.
“We have to face the truth, and the truth for the whole of the Caucasus is that Russia is an occupant, which used the policy of annihilating and uprooting Caucasians,” said Giorgi Gabashvili, a senior parliamentarian from the ruling United National Movement for a Victorious Georgia Party.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.